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PhysIcs departmeNts' CuLture, strUcture and genDer inEquality

Project description

Addressing gender imbalance in the physics realm

Compared to several decades ago, more women embark on physics careers, but they remain outnumbered especially in higher-level positions. This gender imbalance leads to a loss of potential talent and also deprives the physics world of the intellectual contribution of women. Some efforts have been made to lift the barrier and remove constraints to women’s participation in the industry, but they have been largely generic. With the support of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, the INCLUDE project will consider the underlying hidden structures of the physics culture that contribute to gender inequality. More specifically, it will create an interdisciplinary framework to assess those structures, representations, policies and practices that lead to gender inequality in physics education.


The discipline of physics has been grappling with the issue of gender imbalance for decades. The underrepresentation of women in physics profoundly affects the growth and future of the field by contributing to a loss of potential talent and deprives industry of the intellectual contribution of women with a physics background. Those women physicists who enter the workplace remain dramatically outnumbered especially within senior management. The persistence of this gender imbalance suggests that it is due to a combination of many factors, interacting dynamically in complex ways, necessitating holistic and integral solutions. Interventions, so far, have been generic and have focussed overwhelmingly on the micro-level (individual learner, teacher, employer, and family). The thesis of this project is that measures taken to increase representation will be effective only when they include addressing underlying hidden structures of the physics culture that contribute to the gender inequality. In order to unpack the factors that shape how physics engages with women, this work employs semi-structured, artefact-based ethnographic interviews of third-level students (physics and non-physics) and physics academic staff drawn from two institutions in culturally different environments. An interdisciplinary framework will be established to articulate structures, representations, policies and practices that contribute to the gender inequality in third-level physics education. The processes involved will identify the tangible structural changes that can be implemented. The outcomes of this work will empower physics departments internationally to move beyond generic strategies and to implement tailored action plans to address gender imbalance by on-going, collaborative self-reflexivity. These processes and outcomes are transferable to other underrepresented populations in STEM fields and careers, and hence carry academic and economic implications.



Net EU contribution
€ 199 694,40
4 Dublin

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Ireland Eastern and Midland Dublin
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
No data

Partners (1)